Warnings: Strong sexual language and M/M sexual situations.
Disclaimer: The Bee freely admits she owns none of the characters in this story
and makes no profit. I simply borrow them, then hose them down before returning
them to the shelf for others to use.
Summary: AU. This story is a follow-up to Carnivale Mystique.
At the ending of Carnivale, Willow vowed to spend her life looking for her lost
friend and that is just what she has done. Now, after nearly 40 years, she and
the carnival cross paths again. Can she finally get the answers she needs and
protect her granddaughter from falling victim to the special allure of the carnival?
During the telling of this story will be flashback chapters that tell how Spike
and Xander adjusted to their roles of master and pet.
Note: If you haven't read Carnivale Mystique or have forgotten the story,
there is a prologue that contains a brief summary of the story. Use the tags
at the top of the page to find your way there.
Thanks and credit to silk_labyrinth for betaing the spelling, punctuation and
finding wandering boo boos.
As always, thanks to the wonderful Petxnd for the banners that put the perfect
visual to my words.
Willow continued to sit cross-legged on the dusty floor of the dark attic, lost in memory
and contemplation. To be honest, she had long ago given up hope of ever finding the
childhood friend that she blamed herself for losing.
No, now her yearly trek into the past was more habit than hope. Once a year she
would do the simple spirit spell to assure herself that Xander was still alive but she
made no more frustrating attempts to discover where. It was in the beginning of her
tenth year that she realized she was going about this all wrong.
That was when she changed her strategy. Instead of trying to catch up with the
Carnivale Mystique, she would do a spell to predict its future. Zero in on a spot
on the map where she was positive the traveling show would someday set up and she
would go there to wait.
So she tried. And when she dripped one sparkling drop of spelled oil on her map,
it cleanly burnt a hole and marked the spot. With no indecision, she packed up her
few belongings, along with a small stipend sent to her by Giles through the Council,
and she moved to settle into a small home in the quiet village of Atwood, Ohio.
And she waited. For days and months and years she waited.
She scanned the local papers and watched the news reports searching for any word
on the arrival of a strange, traveling carnival. There were rodeos, circuses and
theatrical companies of all kinds coming and going but never the one she sought.
As the sands in the hourglass sifted steadily, her faith began to waiver and she
started to question her very reason to go on.
Surprisingly, when things looked their bleakest, salvation came on a bright spring
morning with a knock on her door. There, standing on her threshold was her
daughter, Hope, with a small, shy redheaded girl holding tightly to her mother's hand.
Hope had announced that she wanted Alexandria to know her grandmother. She
said that she was returning to London to her father and would be back soon. All
three of them knew that was a lie. It was also the best thing that had ever happened
to Willow and the girl called Xani. Sadly, Hope had never learned the skills of
motherhood, and Willow knew that fault was her own.
Xani, a young girl now 16 years old with thick, long red hair and freckles was both
her Grandmother's pride and joy and mirror image of Willow at that age. But more,
it was Willow's second chance at motherhood and this time she did not fail.
Willow gently took the crystal out of the trunk and held it reverently in the palm
of her hand as she said the words. Repeated faithfully each year for 37 years, they
were a jumbled collection of consonants and syllables that she now knew by heart,
they tumbled off her tongue smoothly and stirred the musty air of the attic.
Looking down, she was again relieved to see the clear glass crystal flicker and spark.
Suddenly, it burst to life, glowing, pulsing and flaring with a bright blue light that
bathed her face and small body in an illumination that seemed to warm the entire
attic with it's powerful light.
Xander's spirit was still strong.
Willow smiled at the reassurance. It was good to know that whatever his fate
had been, at 56 years old he was still alive, well and apparently vibrant.
Ritual complete. Willow sighed and carefully began the reverse process of replacing
her 'before' life back in the trunk for another year. It always left her exhausted and
her emotions spinning but at least the gut-wrenching guilt had eased with the passage
of time and had morphed into a sad resignation.
When the last picture was placed on the top of the pile, the lid was slowly closed
and she ran her hands over the rough wood of the steamer.
"GRAM! Hey! Gram, you home?"
Willow was startled by the voice downstairs and she pushed herself to her feet.
Turning her back on her past, she dusted off her trousers and she hurried down
the steps toward the kitchen were she knew Xani would be hunting a snack.
"Hey, Sweet Pea, what are you doing home this time of day?"
Xani frowned and shoved the last of the Twinkie in her mouth before washing it
down with half a glass of milk.
"Sheesh, Gram, it's 3:15. Hellllooooo. School's out. Dang, usually if I am 5 minutes
late you are having a cow."
Willow was stunned to realize that she had been up in the attic for well over an hour.
It had seemed like only minutes. Still, it was done. Another year down.
"Oh, sorry Babe. So, how was your day?"
Xani looked at her grandmother. Really looked. She had seen that all-consuming
aura surround her before and Xani knew today must have been the day. She had
seen it happen each year and had long ago stopped asking about it. It was one
of the forbidden subjects that the two otherwise very close companions didn't
discuss. Like the topic of Xani's second sight. The odd ability to read people
through the strange colors that surrounded them.
It was something that she desperately wanted to talk to her grandmother about but
didn't know how. Her grandmother's love and respect were the most important
things in her life, and the thought of the older woman thinking she was bonkers was
something she just didn't want to risk.
Plopping down on a kitchen chair, Xani tucked her thin legs up under herself and
pushed her thick hair back off her shoulder.
"My day? Oh my day was peachy. Vicky the Twit told Connie that I said she was
fat, which she is but, God, Connie is my friend and I would never say that, so I told
Connie that it wasn't true and if anybody said she was fat it was Vicky cause Vicky
is a bitch, excuse my French, but you know it's true and anyway Vicky is still jealous
cause Connie and I are the top cheerleaders and Vicky couldn't do a split if Brad
Pitt himself asked her to do one on his lap. Oh, by the way, since it's Friday night
and, you know, there's no school tomorrow, me and Connie and Mel are stepping
out tonight. Won't be late."
Willow leaned back against the kitchen counter and waited. She snorted and mentally
rolled her eyes as she watched the oh-so-innocent-looking young girl. Luckily, Willow
spoke fluent babble and she recognized bullshit when it was being shoveled. She
knew all the talk of fat Connie was a smoke screen for the tidbit tacked on to the end.
"Going out? Going out where, Missy? Where and how? And before you ask, be
aware of the fact that I already checked the online newspaper and I know that none
of the movies showing are rated PG-13."
Xani was unable to restrain her exuberance any longer. She could see her grand-
mother's aura was a peaceful lavender again and she went for it.
"No! No movie. Oh, my, God, it is SO exciting! Tip told Jeff that when he was
coming to school this morning, he passed the big field, you know, the one where
they have the summer flea markets? Well, anyway, he said that they are setting up
a CARNIVAL! A real, honest-to-god carnival. The kind you only see in old
movies or read about in books. Oh my God! How exciting is that?"
Instantly, the blood drained from Willow's face and a shudder ran through her body.
Xani's mouth snapped shut. The colors that now shifted and swirled around her
beloved Gram was like nothing she had ever seen.